(Work)flow

Amateur artists despise routine. They fear falling into it – for they believe that if they do, their work will become bland and all alike. The life of an amateur is full of non-routine: ups and downs, meetings and breakups, chaotic motions, spontaneous travels, unjustified and unjust relationships, mind-altering substances. The amateur holds to his lifestyle so hard it’s impossible to see where the person ends and chaos begins. His reasoning is that the chaos is the source of inspiration; that if he were to become boring, his art would cease to exist.

There’s no agreement on why this scheme gets perpetuated endlessly. What the young, naive artist does not realize is that the chaos is not a source of his inspiration, talent or genius; instead, it is the result of it. It’s the result of a seemingly uncontrollable force inside him going primal wild. This force cannot ever be extinguished – but it can be directed. With time, the amateur realizes that the very act of creating actually calms the storm. With enough wisdom and persistence, he may realize it is up to him to turn his curse into a blessing.

After years of struggle my life finally became boring. I get up every morning and head to work. I always take the same route. I have rituals for every moment of my life. Mornings. Afternoons. Work. Eating. Reading. Sleep. I do make corrections to the routine constantly, but it’s established and I no longer pay attention to it. This landscape, the background if my life, is like an empty sheet. Even though blank, it still has its texture and impurities; even though white, it still shows a distinct tint that changes with days, places and seasons.

It’s a pure pleasure to paint on such canvas.

Five years of film photography allowed me to perfect the details to the point where I no longer need to pay attention to them. The entire process comes so naturally that it’s really satisfying to step back and see just how much it takes to produce a print. Choosing and buying film, packing it into canisters with a bulk loader. Carrying the camera and some rolls in my bag all the time. Loading the camera. Setting all the dials and knobs without ever looking at them. Clicking the shutter a hundred times. Loading the developing tank. Pouring the right chemicals at the right temperature for the right time. Drying. Cutting. Scanning. Editing. Ordering prints. Picking them up. Choosing the right envelopes. Getting the addresses. Mailing.

I no longer pay attention to any part of this process. I remember all numbers by heart. I can mix developer blindfolded; I can check the temperature with my fingers. My eyes measure the exposure with 1EV accuracy in any conditions. I can tell the type of film in the camera from the tone of the whirr the winding motor makes. I can play Lightroom the way others play piano, and I’m not making this up; several people said just that. I remember the post stamp prices and size and weight limits for practically anything I’d want to send. I know my room’s white balance down to the number in Kelvins.

The process has become so transparent that I’m back to the blank slate. Except this time, with all the great clarity that comes with practice, I can finally focus on one thing that matters:

Taking the right picture.

And the best thing is: there’s nothing standing between me and that.

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